Iron is a mineral that comes in two different forms; heme iron and non-heme iron. Both forms help in the production of hemoglobin in the body. And hemoglobin is part of the red blood cells, which carry oxygen through our body. In addition, iron helps with energy production in our cells and our immDune system needs it for normal functioning.
Heme iron and non-heme iron
The difference in heme iron and non-heme iron is mainly in the products from which you get it and the extent to which the body absorbs it. For example, we only get heme iron from animal products such as meat, fish and chicken and the body absorbs it more easily. We obtain non-heme iron from both animal and vegetable products, but it is less easily absorbed. This is for example in bread and wholemeal products, legumes, nuts and dark green vegetables (spinach, endive, chard). But also in meat substitutes and egg.
Our body is also dependent on the amount of vitamin C we consume with on-heme iron. That is why it is useful to eat fruit and vegetables with every meal. In contrast, various substances in grains, legumes, tea and coffee reduce the absorption of non-heme iron. The advice here is to eat a varied diet. In this way, the inhibitory effect is canceled by the stimulating nutrients.
In itself, the chance of iron deficiency is not that great, because the body regulates the absorption well. But in children, vegetarians, pregnant women and girls / women in their menstrual phase of life, this can occur more easily. Symptoms of this include pale skin, fatigue easily, restless legs and quickly out of breath. Anemia can also be a result of iron deficiency, but is almost non-existent in Western countries.
Iron is especially important for children because of the development of their thinking ability and muscle coordination. When they have an iron deficiency, they can suffer from a poorly functioning memory and disturbed learning behavior. According to the Wheel of Five, a varied and healthy diet is sufficient to prevent this.
Too much iron
The chance that you consume too much iron through diet is virtually impossible. But you have to be careful with dietary supplements. If you take in more than 45 milligrams of iron per day as an adult, you can damage your liver. This in turn increases the risk of liver cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
So, as with all dietary supplements, it is wise to only take iron (also in multivitamin) in consultation with your doctor.